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SAFD gives details on tragic fire that left one firefighter dead, two others injured

SAFD holds news conference on deadly fire

The San Antonio Fire Department and city leaders held a news conference Friday on the Thursday night's tragic fire that killed one firefighter and injured two others.

San Antonio Fire Department Chief Charles Hood was flanked by Mayor Ivy Taylor and city council members as he stood at the podium.

"Unfortunately last night, we had our worst day," Chief Hood said shortly after starting the news conference.

Chief Hood told the group "you don't hear a lot of mayday calls - and this one sounded bad."

Chief Hood began recounting the tense moments during the call.

"We were going to do anything possible to go in and find our two brothers," he said.

Chief Hood then explained the decision to send in a search and rescue group to find the three missing firefighters. He went on to say they were ready to exhaust every resource to find missing firefighters

"Some of the most heroic firefighting I've ever seen," Chief Hood said while fighting back tears.

Chief Hood said he wanted his firefighters to know there is no blame. He said he has no regrets about pulling firefighters out of building, saying they could have lost more lives. But he called the decision, "the hardest decision of my life."

When speaking about firefighter Scott Deem, who lost his life in the fire, Chief Hood said, "We took the flag from his station and we draped him in that flag. We gave him the dignity that he deserves."

Deem was married with two kids and another on the way.

The two other firefighters injured in the fire were identified as Brad Phipps and Robert Vasquez. Phipps is in critical but stable condition, while Vasquez was treated at the hospital and released. Chief Hood said injured firefighter Robert Vasquez fought paramedics and wanted to go back in to keep searching.

Chief Hood explained the they planned to take every member of San Antonio Fire Department through the building before Deem's funeral.

"Courage is not necessarily running into a building, but what we're going to have to go through right now," Hood said.

He also thanked everyone for their prayers and support and asked that the public bring all memorial or thank you gifts to Public Safety Headquarters Downtown.

Mayor Ivy R. Taylor has issued a letter to Governor Greg Abbott requesting he order flags fly at half-staff in honor of fallen firefighter Scott Deem.

“We are blessed to have an outstanding fire department made up of some of the best and bravest men and women in the country. Unfortunately, last night one of our best did not make it home,” said Mayor Taylor. “We will always be in debt to Mr. Deem and the sacrifice he and his family have made. Asking the flags be flown at half-staff is just one way we as a city can pay tribute to his service.”

Flags will remain at half-staff until interment.

Here's a full timeline of events from that night:

  • At 9:10 p.m., San Antonio firefighters were dispatched to the Ingram Square Shopping Center located at the 6700 block of Ingram Road for a structure fire inside.
  • When Ladder 35 arrived on scene, they reported heavy smoke coming from the structure and requested a second alarm (a second team to come in for backup).
  • Ladder 35 and Engine 35 entered the mall to attack and perform a preliminary search for anyone inside.
  • After reporting heavy smoke and high heat conditions, the Battalion Chief in command ordered all fire personnel in the building to exit the building immediately. An emergency evacuation tone was sounded.
  • About 20 minutes into the incident, one of the Ladder 35 firefighters sounded a Mayday call and a third alarm per the department's "Mayday" policy was dispatched. It was then determined that two firefighters were unaccounted for. The Special Operations Battalion Chief was assigned to Rapid Intervention Team to focus on the search and rescue of the two missing firefighters.
  • About 26 minutes into the incident, one of the missing firefighters, identified as Brad Phipps, was located and rescued. He was then transported to SAMMC. Fire crews continued to search for the second missing firefighter.
  • About 39 minutes in, the missing firefighter's emergency signal was activated.
  • About 48 minutes into the incident, a downed firefighter, identified as Robert Vasquez, was brought out of the structure. He was one of the rescuers attempting to locate the missing firefighter. Vasquez was then transported to University Hospital.
  • After multiple attempts to locate the missing firefighter, identified as Scott Deem, it was decided that the structure fire conditions were too dangerous to continue operations and all rescue operations were ceased. Operations were then shifted to preventing the spread of the fire.
  • At 11:34 p.m., Command was informed that Deem could be seen from outside of the structure.
  • Deem was removed from the structure, transferred to an awaiting Medic unit, and then was escorted by police to the Medical Examiner's Office.
  • The investigation of the scene remains ongoing and is being led by the fire department's Arson Division.

Robert Vasquez suffered non-life threatening injuries and is now at home recovering. Vasquez joined the San Antonio Fire Department in December 2006.

Brad Phipps suffered serious burns and is in critical but stable condition. Phipps joined the department ion April 2008.

Scott Deem did not survive that night. A 2004 Southwest High School graduate, Deem joined the department in January 2011. He is survived by his wife and two children, with one more on the way. He was 31 years old.

The last time the fire department lost one of it's own during an incident was on May 4, 1997 when Jesse F. Bricker Jr. died while responding.

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